12 Images of 2016

Twelve favourite images from 2016; an unforgettable year of travel that took us to Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the Isle of Harris in Scotland, and the Himalaya of Nepal, but begins with two shots of my home county of Yorkshire, England.

In order taken … click on a the image to see the bigger picture …

1. Hole of Horcum, North York Moors, England. Shot in the winter on the drive home from Whitby, East to West across the North York Moors, and perhaps the only photo of the Hole of Horcum that doesn’t feature the Hole.

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Hole of Horcum, North York Moors | Sigma DP3 Merrill

2. Saltburn Pier, North Yorkshire, England  A flip of a coin decision somewhere in the Winter desolation of the North York Moors took us to Saltburn, and a perfect sunset as the tide receded. When your lucks in …

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Saltburn Pier, North Yorkshire | Sony RX1rII

3. Utakleiv Beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway. A million photographers on the beach sent me stomping up the sand in search of solitude and a clear shot. All I found was a pile of lumpy old rocks!

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Utakleiv Beach, Lofoten, Norway | Sigma DP0 Quattro

4. Olstind, Lofoten, Norway. Leaving it as late as ever it became a race against the storm, wading through two foot deep snow to find a spot that pointed up the valley. We won by five minutes!

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Olstind, Lofoten, Norway | Sigma DP0 Quattro

5. Pipework, The RERF, Leeds. An odd shot to throw in, but an image that perhaps only the Merrill with its extraordinary tonal range could take, and the culmination of a year long project to photograph the build.

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Pipework, The RERF, Leeds | Sigma DP1 Merrill

6. Boat & House, Isle of Harris, Scotland. A mouldy old boat, a broken down croft and a dull, wet, miserable day; anywhere else awful, on the isle of Harris, wonderful.

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Boat & House, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII

7. The Gloaming, Isle of Harris, Scotland. The rooftops of Northton silhouetted against the bay, then out over the sea to the mountains of Harris. Not such a bad midnight view.

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The Gloaming, Isle of Harris | Sigma DP3 Merrill

8. Soul Machine, Wakefield, England. Discovered in the middle of a farmyard machinery graveyard on a local walk, the truck has seen better days, but wears it’s scars with dignity and soul.

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Soul Machine, Wakefield | Sony Rx1rII

9. Himalayan Mountain Stream, Nepal.  A rock, water and time, combine to create an example of nature’s perfection.

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Himalayan Mountain Stream | Sony RX1rII

10. Himalaya Trail, Nepal. A line of Mani stones stretches along a tree-lined, sandy trail, overlooked by the sacred mountain of Kumbila shrouded by cloud ; a microcosm of everything I loved about Nepal.

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Himalaya Trail, Nepal | Sony RXrII

11. Suspension Bridge, Nepal:  A texture and detail of Nepal; the polished slats of a metal footbridge suspended 30 meters above the turbulent, mountain river, captured in Foveon detail by the Sigma DP3 Merrill.

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Suspension Bridge, Nepal | Sigma Dp3 Merrill

12. Mountain Sunrise, Nepal. Not many things are worth climbing out of a nice, warm bed for, but this was one; truly a jewel on a crown.

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Mountain Sunrise, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Have a happy 2017.

Richard

Lofoten Postscript 2 – Lofoten Collection

Well it’s taken seven weeks, but I’ve finally got my act together and created a collection of favourite images from our February trip to Lofoten. I can finally cross that one of the list!

Click on the image of Olstind below to view the collection.

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Olstind, Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Merrill

 

 

Lofoten Postscript 1 – Hurtigruten Customer Service

 

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In an unusual departure from my normal blog …

From time to time I find myself in correspondence with organisations that IMHO have let me down in one way or another. How they respond sends a real signal in terms of whether they value me as a customer, and makes a difference to whether I’ll continue to use their services or buy their products.

Some examples of positive experiences recently have been Sigma and Sony, in the former case showing a real interest in my experience with early versions of the Quattro, and who went on to loan me kit for the trip to Lofoten, and in the latter case prioritising a replacement camera when my Sony RX1 r II was lost during the voyage up the Norwegian coast … which leads me nicely on to …

… My experience with Hurtigruten, the Norwegian shipping line, when I lost the Sony camera, has been less than positive, and has led to me writing a letter to their CEO, Mr Skjeldam, published below.

I have no real hope that it will change anything, nor do I expect to receive anything in return, and I’m sure many people will have no sympathy for my plight, after all it was my fault that I lost the camera …

… but …

…I do want Mr Skjeldam to understand how much the attitude of the Captain and the impotence of his customer service team (no doubt constrained by company policy to only be able to offer off-the-shelf apologies and trotting out the company line) compounded my frustration and disappointment.

I intend to publish Mr Skjeldam’s reply if and when I receive one.

Dear Mr Skjeldam

On Friday 19th February we boarded the MS Lofoten looking forward to a wonderful voyage up the Norwegian coastline from from Bergen to Boda for a photography trip on the Lofoten Islands, a trip planned for 12 months. As a semi-professional photographer I was hoping to capture the beauty of the islands, and perhaps exhibit some of the images. I’d bought a new camera, a Sony RX1r Mk 2, specially for the trip as its 42mega pixels would allow me to print big, and its low light capabilities would be perfect for dusk and night time shots, a capability that stretched my other, Sigma Foveon based, cameras.

Unfortunately, at the stop at Trondheim, I discovered on returning to the ship that the Sony was missing, most probably lost or perhaps stolen. I would like to stress at this point that I take full responsibility for the loss.

I informed officer Snore Andre Pedersan immediately, and, with 20 minutes before our scheduled departure, asked that the ship delay sailing by 10 minutes, allowing me 30 minutes to retrace my steps and (hopefully) recover the camera. Snore contacted the captain and asked, but my request was dismissed. I requested to speak to the Captain face to face. He arrived ten minutes later and after discussion again refused. The options he gave were to (a) leave the ship immediately and make my own way to Lofoten or (b) remain on board and leave my camera. Option (a) was not a great option! We had no time to gather money or our gear, or indeed just essential gear, let alone sort out accommodation. I had no choice but to leave the camera, and my trip, planned for 12 months, lay in ruins.

During the conversation the Captain was arrogant and rude, showing no empathy in my plight, giving me no real options, insinuating I was being selfish to other passengers in asking for a 10 minute delay, and turning away and leaving mid-conversation. Furthermore, at no time during the remaining voyage did he seek me out to explain the situation from his perspective, nor show any sympathy, let alone apologise. Instead he left me to sit and fume!

At this point I would like to add that officer Snorre Andre Pedersan was extremely helpful and did his upmost to help recover the camera. Despite the camera not being found I was very grateful for his help and rewarded him accordingly.

I contacted your customer service team whilst still on board the ship and have since been in conversation with them. After much correspondence I have received a belated apology from the Captain with a statement that was at best economical with the truth, and an offer of 15% off a voyage if I take it in 2016; in other words that I PAY Hertigruten 85% of the normal cost to repeat a trip I’ve only just returned from!

In my correspondence with customer services I have been told that the ship must operate to a fixed timetable and the Captain had no choice but to sail. I ask what’s the point of a Captain if he cannot exercise his own judgment and discretion, and has no scope to vary a sailing by 10 minutes? Furthermore, we set sail from Trondheim at 12 noon and didn’t arrive at the next port, Rorvik, until 8:45pm, surely adequate time to make up a 10 minute delay, or at least minimise the delay so that my fellow passengers would not have been inconvenienced.

So, nearly two months on, I find myself writing to you to express my real dissatisfaction and disappointment. Though I again stress that I blame myself for the loss of the camera if I had been allowed to retrace my steps immediately I am 80% confident that I would have recovered it, and if not, at least been able to take solace in the fact that I had tried.

I would like to place yourself in my shoes and ask whether you would have tolerated your Captain’s attitude and inflexibly, or lack of communication afterwards, or would have been felt adequately compensated by a 15% discount offer? Of course I would imagine that if you had asked the Captain to delay departure by 10 minutes you might have received a very different response, but perhaps you believe the CEO of the company is more important than a paying customer?

I would like to stress that the cost of the loss was covered by my insurance company, who, I might add, responded immediately. And that on hearing of my plight Sony rushed through a replacement camera within a week. Great examples of two companies that truly believe in customer service!

I now leave this in your hands and for you to determine what it is worth to Hurtigruten to turn an angry, disappointed and upset customer, into one who might consider travelling with you in again (but not in 2016!).

Finally, I would like to add that the Lofoten Islands are a truly wonderful and that no trip to them could be totally ruined. I captured many beautiful images with my other cameras (https://richardjwallsblog.wordpress.com/category/lofoten/page/2/).

In a spirit of openness I’ve published this letter my blog and will publish your reply when received.

Yours in good faith.

 

 

The Sigma 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 C DC Macro OS HSM Travel Zoom

On our recent trip to Lofoten, Sigma asked me to check out their 18-300mm travel zoom on the SD1 Merrill. The resulting article was published on the Sigma Lounge blog at: http://www.sigma-imaging-uk.com/sigmalounge/lofoten-islands-richard-walls-sigma-18-300mm-c/ . It was also featured in Geographical Magazine’s newsletter, and the images were shared by Sigma Japan to all the worldwide Sigma subsidiaries.Fame at last 🙂 If you’ve not seen it the article, and are interested in the lens, it’s published in full below.Richard

The Sigma 18-300mm Travel Zoom

A few years ago I threw all my zoom lenses under a bus and become a prime man, preferring to zoom in and out using one of the best, recent (in geological terms), innovative advances, human feet. The zooms had become too heavy and unwieldy and I never once regretted my decision.

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But lately, with a three day voyage to the Lofoten Islands looming, I was becoming more concerned. Zooming with my feet was all well and good on dry land, but if you’re on a ship wasn’t there a serious danger of those feet, and for that matter the rest of me, becoming very wet?

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And there was another problem. The small army of cameras I’d packed were all wide angle, so while all the talk in the evening bar would be of hair-splitting close-ups of sea eagles and hump back whales, all I’d have to show was a small brownish dot on the horizon!

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Fortunately Sigma came to my rescue and so as the ship set sail I was fully equipped with a SD1 Merrill paired with a 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 OS HSM travel zoom, and this zoom wasn’t big and bulky at all, in fact is was a relative lightweight!

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Lofoten is an unsurpassable place, a place where around each corner the scene takes your breath way, a place where a ten-minute journey stretches into hours as you stop and reach for your camera again and again, a place where you need to be prepared for that chance moment …

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… that instant when the last rays of the sun kiss a cliff face; or above your head sea eagles tumble in the sky; or the sun’s rays burst through an overcast sky; or a trawler shatters a perfect reflection. It was at those moments I reached for the lens.

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Sadly the whale never showed its hump, but the 18-300mm was there to capture my favourite image of the entire trip;  the most perfect, Foveon, sunrise above the mountains of the Norwegian coastline.

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Lofoten Sunset

Without the travel zoom I’d have lost the shot, instead I’d have just been able to stare and wonder, shake my head, turn, and walk back home. I guess there are times even a prime man needs a zoom.

Snowscapes – Lofoten Post 11

And on the fifth day it snowed … and everything was wrapped in white.

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Boulders | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Breaking Through | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Shadowlands | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

 

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Gaff in the storm | Sigma DP0 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Churchdrifts, Reine | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

When it snows in Reine it snows. 6 inches in 3 hours, drifts up to the windows, a fresh and cold perspective.

Shooting Notes

Sigma cameras, post processed in SPP and Lightroom.

 

 

Final View – Lofoten Post 10

Our final view of Lofoten from the window of the plane that took us from Lekness to Bodo, and from there, via Oslo and Stokholm, home. And what a view! We’re already planning our return visit.

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Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Stitched | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Shooting Notes 

3 images stitched together in Lightroom, taken with a Sigma DP3 Merrill, through a dirty airplane window @ ISO200. Given the view perhaps next time we’ll hire a plane and do this properly!

Shoreline – Lofoten Post 9

Six days wasn’t enough to visit a third of Loften’s beaches. Vik and Haukland we saw through the car window as we passed by on our way to Uttakliev. We planned to return but ran out of days.  Storsandnes, Eggum and Unstad, were on our list but we never got close. We put on snow spikes and hiked over the pass to find Kvalvika, only to find ourselves on the wrong path and overlooking Yttersand! (but we did have a frozen tarn all to ourselves). Our walk to the cliffs at A was obscured by rain, sleet and mist.  All the more reason to return the islands and continue our exploration 🙂

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Uttakleiv Beach, Lofoten | Sigma DPo Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Reine, Lofoten | Sigma SD1 Merrill & 18-300mm | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Skagsanden Beach, Lofoten | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Ramburg Beach, Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Uttakleiv Beach at dusk, Lofoten | Sigma DPo Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Reine, Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Ballstad, Lofoten | Sigma SD1 Merrill & 18-300mm Lens | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Yttersand Beach, Lofoten | Sigma DPo Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Skagsanden Beach, Lofoten | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Ramberg Beach, Lofoten | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Shooting Notes 

All taken with Sigma, foveon, cameras, at low ISOs, post processed in SPP and Lightroom.